The Mouth Body Connection – There Is A Link
The Mouth-Body Connection is real.
Everyone knows that proper brushing and flossing keep your teeth and gums healthy. But did you know that good oral hygiene can keep your body healthy?
For over a century, dentists and physicians have discussed and tested the link between oral health and systemic health. Modern research has made it clear that there is a strong link between the two.
When your gums aren’t healthy, they become red and puffy from inflammation, which is called gingivitis.
When the inflammation becomes more severe it’s called periodontitis which destroys the gums and bone supporting the teeth.
This inflammation is your body’s defense against harmful bacteria. It works by flooding the area with white blood cells to fight and remove toxins.
However, inflammation also makes your gums bleed easily. This allows bacteria to get into your bloodstream and travel throughout your body. The presence of blood does not mean you have caused injury; it means
you’ve discovered an area that was already inflamed.
Gum Disease and the Heart
When oral bacteria reaches your heart, it can settle on valves or live in the walls of your arteries. This can trigger more inflammation and narrowing of the arteries, called atherosclerosis.
So, plaque in your mouth may literally cause plaque in your arteries. In fact, people with gum disease have two to three times the risk of heart attack than those with healthy mouths.
Gum Disease and Stroke
A stroke occurs when something blocks the flow of oxygen to an area of the brain. The most common type is called an ischemic stroke.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot or fatty plaque breaks off and becomes lodged in the narrow vessels of the brain. If that area of the brain is deprived of oxygen for long enough, it can become permanently damaged or die.
Gum disease and ischemic stroke have been shown to be closely related. One study showed people with severe gum disease have over four times the risk of ischemic stroke.
Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s
Recently a research study was done on the brains of people who died from Alzheimer’s Disease. In over 90% of the brains, they found a type of bacteria normally found in gum disease.
In fact, this bacteria is specifically known to cause bone loss and gum tissue destruction.
They later transplanted this bacteria to the mouth of mice. They were able to show an increase in destructive enzymes in the brains of the mice, much like what is seen in Alzheimer’s.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
Gum disease also increases inflammation throughout the body. For people who have diabetes, this can affect insulin sensitivity and make sugar levels more difficult to control.
It goes both ways, though. People with diabetes have trouble fighting infections like periodontal disease. And having infections like periodontal disease make the symptoms of diabetes worse.
Keeping your mouth clean and healthy is an effective way to help control issues with diabetes.
Gum Disease and Lung Diseases
Bacteria from the mouth can also be inhaled into the lungs. This can worsen respiratory illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pneumonia.
These diseases are one of the largest causes of death in the United States.
Gum Disease and Cancer
Oral bacteria has also been found in certain types of pancreatic cancer. This bacteria creates an enzyme that the cancer cells can then use to spread into healthy cells.
The researchers encouraged people to pay more attention to their oral health as an easy and affordable way of preventing disease.
Gum Disease and Pregnancy
Pregnant women are much more likely to have gum problems due to hormone changes.
It is critical that they take care of their mouth during their pregnancy. Gum issues during pregnancy can lead to preterm births or low birth weight babies.
Gum Disease and Arthritis
Oral Inflammation increases overall body inflammation. People with inflammatory diseases like arthritis may see a decrease in symptoms if gum issues are corrected.
As you can see, oral health can directly affect the health of your entire body. Most of the conditions listed above are influenced by inflammation or bacteria. Personally, I’d much rather be treated for gum disease than I would any of the conditions above!
Check out our article on 10 Ways to Prevent Periodontal Disease and be sure to see your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.